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How Not to Struggle With Negative Experiences

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How Not to Struggle With Negative Experiences

Life is hard — way harder than anyone thought it would be. When you were younger, you dreamed of the world being your playground, and you were told that you could do anything and be anyone you wanted. Somehow, though, things haven’t been the smooth sailing you wanted them to be. The world seems to conspire against you, and the last thing you want to hear is “Cheer up!”

Still, there are a couple things you might not notice about your situation. Next time you’re down, maybe the following will provide motivation:

Not everything is bad.

It’s a well accepted fact that bad news makes for sensational television ratings. The fact that something is negative catches a lot more attention than something positive in the same vein, and that’s because it’s easy to see things in a negative light. However, that should not distract you from the bigger picture.

Resist the tunnel vision that results from constant negativity. Remember that even though there’s a lot of really nasty stuff going on, you’re surrounded by some pretty awesome stuff, as well.

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Other people aren’t you.

No one likes being compared to another person. What makes it even worse, if that’s even possible, is when you do it to yourself.

“Sarah and I were in the same graduating class, but she’s a successful business owner and I am not” is essentially mental suicide. Every experience in any person’s life is like rolling a handful of dice. You don’t get the same kind of dice, the same amount of them, or the same number of re-rolls as anyone else because everyone else is not you! Sarah rolled ten sixes, and you only rolled seven.

“Sarah is therefore better than me!” you might say. To be fair, she may have something over you — in that specific instance. However, you still rolled seven sixes! That’s an insanely high number, and you did well rolling it.

Stop comparing yourself to another person and you will realize that you are way more awesome than you give yourself credit for.

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Failure isn’t where the game stops.

So you tried something new, but you didn’t follow through. Frustrated at yourself, you stop trying. As a result, your quality of life goes down immensely. You’ve given up on it, though, because you don’t see the point (since you failed the first time).

Now, look at that same story again. But this time, set the main character as a 5-year-old version of yourself. The outcome is very different, I bet: Your younger self tried to do a thing, failed, and then tried it a different way until he or she figured out how it worked. There were surely many, many failures along the way, but that version of you didn’t see failure as the end of the road.

Now, you’re an adult. The things you are trying are much more complicated than 5-year-old you. However, your behaviour should not change in the slightest — when you fail at something, that’s just more information in your data bank. You know that method does not work, so try another one! And another one after that! Do this until you figure it out.

Giving up is for lesser beings, and you sure aren’t one of those.

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The past is way back there.

There is not a human alive or dead that has never made a choice they regret. Whether it was something so small as a purchase you later decided was a bad idea, or something gargantuan, like the weird tryst you had with the foreign exchange student during Club Rush in sophomore year, it’s there. And you’re treating it like a big, swollen thumb.

Knock that off immediately and you will see just how much your life improves. The most important thing to take away from this idea is that your past is not what makes you who you are. The things that happened to you way back there are just that — in the past. You cannot change what happened to you, but you can definitely change how it affects you in the present and whether it will dictate who you are in the future.

You are alive right now, and right now is all you get. You can’t go back, and the future is coming at its own pace. Don’t worry about the other two points — this one, right now, is the important one.

Everything that happens in your life is valuable.

My personal life’s philosophy can be summed up in one sentence: No experience is a wasted one if it leads to a story you can tell.

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Did you get kicked out of your apartment and have to spend three weeks living in your car while you tried to find a new place? Story time. Did your bank account get stolen by a scammer and used to purchase a yacht? Story time. Did you lose your best friend to a petty squabble, and now you won’t even talk any more? Story bloody time! The stuff that seems bad now is the stuff you will tell stories about in the future.

I cannot stress this enough: Everything in your life gives you purpose somehow, even if it’s something terrible. It is up to you to decide exactly which stories to tell — but your responsibility lies first in getting the stories to happen so that you can tell them. Every story needs conflict, needs adverse contact with some negative force. That way, when the good bits are there, you really know that they are the good bits because they compare to the other bits of your story and give it perspective.

It’s all about perspective.

See your life through your own eyes.

If you let someone else tell you your life is terrible, then you might as well believe them. Never, ever take that from another living being. Your life belongs to you, so you get to decide whether it’s good or not. You may not always get the exact things you are looking for when you come to the temple, but the temple welcomes you anyway, and you cannot deny its hospitality.

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Of course, negative things happen. Of course, they are terrible and dreadful. But, maybe, those negative experiences are the real link between the happy and the sad.

Featured photo credit: bryan… via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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